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Mike Hookem writes to Philip Hammond to request the Foreign Office play a greater role in securing the release of six former British soldiers who are incarcerated in India


Published Jan 14, 2016

ForSec_Letter_15012016-page-001.jpgUKIP Defence Spokesman Mike Hookem MEP has written to Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, to request the Foreign and Commonwealth Office play a greater role in securing the release of six former British soldiers who are incarcerated in India

They were arrested while providing anti-piracy protection to a US ship and according to Indian authorities the vessel entered Indian waters with weapons on board. Two of the men jailed for five years are from Mike's constituency of Yorkshire and North East Lincolnshire: Paul Towers from Pocklington in East Riding of Yorkshire and Nicholas Simpson from Catterick. 

In his letter Mike writes,“I understand that some consular assistance has been offered to the families but I do not believe that enough is being done.

“I believe it should be a priority of the British government to get these men home and back to their families. There should at the very least be some arrangement where they can be brought under the UK judicial system if any appeal an intervention fails.

Click the picture to read the letter in full.

You can also read it below:

Dear Foreign Secretary,

I am writing to you not only as a politician but as a former soldier to request the Foreign and Commonwealth Office play a greater role in securing the release of six former British soldiers who are incarcerated in India.

I understand that India is saying it has sole jurisdiction over the incident where weapons were found on board but as well as both India and the UK being party to UNCLOS III under customary international law matters such as piracy are subject to universal jurisdiction.

Given that the men were working on board a ship which was providing protection to merchant vessels in an area of waters known colloquially as 'pirates' alley' I completely understand why businesses are hiring private companies to protect them, given the lack of international success in doing so. Indeed, we know international piracy funds terrorism which is having such a devastating effect across the world including here in the UK.

Two of the men who have been jailed for five years are from my constituency of Yorkshire and North East Lincolnshire: Paul Towers from Pocklington in East Riding of Yorkshire and Nicholas Simpson from Catterick.

As employees it was not their responsibility to ensure that the vessel had completed all necessary registrations, as that is the role of the captain. Yet this is an argument used by India to back up its decision to lock up men who were employed to protect trading vessels from terrorists.

I understand that some consular assistance has been offered to the families but I do not believe that enough is being done. Indeed, given the Corfu Channel Case (1949) there is a clear case here for the right of innocent passage through international straits.

Many companies and national governments use private security companies to assist with the safety of their business and staff and whilst it may be fairly new at sea the threat of piracy makes it no less valid. Indeed this maybe something which should be brought up at the UN Security Council.

Having already served 27 months in jail and been subject to questionable justice I believe it should be a priority of the British government to get these men home and back to their families. There should at the very least be some arrangement where they can be brought under the UK judicial system if any appeal an intervention fails.

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